Americans reveal their 3 favorite sins
Eve couldn't stay away from the apple, but a new survey reveals that most Americans struggle with three other temptations.
February 8th, 2013
10:25 AM ET

Americans reveal their 3 favorite sins

By John Blake, CNN

 “Lead me not into temptation. I can find it all by myself.”

That line, taken from the country music song “Lead Me Not,” evokes smiles because it underscores a truth: The struggle against temptation is universal.

A new survey, however, gets specific about the type of temptations most Americans battle against, and shows that men and women seem to wrestle with different vices.

“Temptations and America’s Favorite Sins,” a survey conducted by the Barna Group, a Christian research firm, concludes that the moral struggles that vex most Americans aren’t the salacious acts that drive the plotlines of reality television shows. Most Americans are too worn down or distracted to get snared by those vices, the survey concludes.

The top three sins seducing most Americans: procrastination, overeating and spending too much time on media.

“You would think it would be sex, drugs and rock and roll,” said Todd Hunter, pastor and author of “Our Favorite Sins,” whose book was consulted in conjunction with the survey.

The survey said that 60% of Americans admitted that they’re tempted to worry too much or procrastinate; 55% said they’re tempted to overeat, and 41% said they’re tempted by sloth, or laziness.

The sex, drugs and rock and roll-like vices fell dead last in the temptation categories: 11% of Americans said they were tempted by drug abuse; 9% were tempted by sexually inappropriate contact.

Even young people put sex and drugs way down on their list, according to the survey, which broke down temptations by gender and age. It  found that 21% of millennials (born between 1984 and 2002) considered sexually inappropriate behavior their chief temptation. It was the lowest percentage attributed to any vice by millennials. Their top two temptations were worrying too much and procrastination.

The battleground for temptation has also shifted – it’s gone digital, according to David Kinnman, president of Barna Group, which based its survey on 1,021 online interviews with a representative sample of white, African-American and Latinos.

“Temptation has gone virtual, ’’ Kinnman said. “Nearly half of Americans admit to being tempted to use too much media and one in nine admits to expressing their anger digitally.”

Temptation also seems to affect men and women differently – more women said they’re tempted by gossip and overeating, and only 8% of women admitted to being tempted by online pornography versus 28% of  men.

Many Americans who admit to being tempted aren’t putting up a big fight. The study said that 59% of Americans admit that they don’t do anything to avoid temptation and half can’t explain why they give into temptation.

Many Americans still can’t explain what sin is, Hunter said. Worrying, for example, is not considered one of the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth). Yet survey respondents listed it as one of their top temptations.

“There’s no agreement on what sin is,” Hunter said. “It’s one of the aspects of the world we live in. It’s becoming more relativistic. It’s hard to talk about sin when everyone disagrees about what it is.”

Hunter knows a little bit about temptation. One of his is chocolate. He once shot up to 330 pounds because he overate. He said all temptations start with a desire for something good: tasty food, rest, intimacy. They become “disordered” when they enslave people and spread pain through their lives.

“Disordered desires imprison us,” he wrote in “Our Favorite Sins.” “In the end they give us nothing – not one lasting shred of goodness, freedom, joy, or love.”

Hunter’s advice for staying clear of temptation: fasting, praying and staying out of places and relationships that lead you toward temptation.

For those who aren’t religious, Hunter recommends thinking about sports. He cites the practice habits of superstars like NBA legend Michael Jordan. They practice progress, repeating athletic exercises every day until their body complies.

Little victories lead to big things, Hunter said. In his book, he quoted the legendary college basketball coach John Wooden:

“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. So don’t look for the quick, big improvement. Seek the small improvements one day at a time – that’s the only way progress happens – and when that kind of progress happens, it lasts.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Books • Christianity • Church • Faith • Internet • Media • News media • Sex • Trends

soundoff (1,295 Responses)
  1. albert

    Perhaps someone would like to share from the Bible where it states that the fruit Eve ate was actually an apple? Make pretend religions loves to lie and misrepresent the Bible every chance they get don't they. Read the book and get your stories straight!

    February 9, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • Maybe it was

      fig fruit.

      February 9, 2013 at 8:44 am |
  2. Douglas

    The Bible teaches LGBTQ to say no to fornication and yes to celibacy!

    Together, we can work to make progress in this area by prohibiting gay coitus.

    Reach out at your place of worship and encourage LGBTQ celibacy.

    February 9, 2013 at 7:56 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      How pathetic that you would make such a statement. Being gay or lesbian or trans-gender is not a choice or a lifestyle but is purely natural.
      You sir are a bigot.

      February 9, 2013 at 8:25 am |
  3. colonelingus

    Sin = self induced nonsense.

    February 9, 2013 at 7:42 am |
  4. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Pray without ceasing
    Prayer changes things

    February 9, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • Thegoodman

      Do you have any evidence to support your claim? Pray has historically been shown to do absolutely nothing. Is god not listening? Does he not care? Or does it simply not exist? I'll go with #3.

      February 9, 2013 at 8:17 am |
  5. Sane Person

    So when do we see the signs that say "GOD HATES PROCRASTINATORS!" and legislation to prevent people who procrastinate from being full citizens?

    February 9, 2013 at 6:04 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Shhhh, don't give the WBC any idea's. 🙂

      February 9, 2013 at 6:15 am |
  6. Christopher A. White

    "He said all temptations start with a desire for something good:"

    First of all that statment is false.
    Temptation starts with a drive for something that "one" thinks is good!!

    Also I would like to know if anyone else noticed the subliminal message at the top of this page!!!???
    There are 5 things that i think are "Internet add's" at the top of this web page.
    Now 4 out of 5 of them talk about "GOD"
    And it just so happens that the second add says "Hobby,Lobby"

    Now I saw these adds and read that "MY GOD" AKA "JESUS CHRIST" was a HOBBY, DIRTY, and needed to be X out...
    And the last add has a X on it!!!!!!!

    I believe that this was purposely put togather like this so someone at CNN could put their opinion opon the viewer without the viewer knowing it.

    I would greatly appreciate if CNN would take that off and never do it again!!!!!!!!!!

    After all CNN is supposed to be for ""NEWS."" Leave the thoughts, and opions up to the viewer PLEASE. THANKYOU!!

    February 9, 2013 at 5:05 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      This is a belief blog!!! All 5 of those articles at the top have something to do with belief including the one about Hobby Lobby. As much as I'm sure you'd appreciate CNN stop doing this, you'll just have to pull up your big boy panties and suck it up or go to another site that doesn't offend you so much.

      February 9, 2013 at 6:14 am |
  7. Psuedonym

    I assume its figurative not literal and what we call "sin" seems more like survival instinct....when you look at the reasons behind it.

    February 9, 2013 at 4:00 am |
  8. Psuedonym

    For the devout...

    I do not get it, the whole story of the garden of eden. I assume it's a figure of speach. One devout Christian friend says that there was literally a talking snake (which they don't have vocal chords), another pastor says it was a mistranslation and the word means "shining one" or a type of angel (and there are no photographs of them).

    In favor of Christianity I can atleast feel it in the churches, expecially the baptist and pentacostal. You can go in there, close your eyes and feel it. So atleast there is that.

    I am not an atheist I am just illustrating a point.

    February 9, 2013 at 3:58 am |
  9. Johnny Guitar

    The worst sin: rejecting reality in favor of a fantasy ideology totally unsupported by any evidence (religion), then trying to force others to obey your religioous delusions.

    February 9, 2013 at 2:02 am |
    • gg

      It's true that religion in this world is not reality. Because most do not teach the realities of the Bible. After 35 years of research, archeology, manuscript studies etc. comparing evolution with creation, the Bible proves to be reality.
      Anyone who rejects the creator is living in unreality.

      February 9, 2013 at 3:30 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      there is no invisible sky-fairy. that's silly. just as silly as zeus, odin or ra. there are unicorns in the bible, and you think it's based on reality? also satyrs, dragons and c.cokatrice. talking snakes and talking donkeys (like in Shrek!) a guy lives in the belly of a whale for 3 days (like in Pinocchio!) the bible says to kill all g.ays, non-virgin brides, disobedient children and anyone working the weekend. god drowns everyone on the planet but one family - that means god murdered babies, pregnant women, the physically disabled, mentally challenged, infirm, elderly - every man woman and child on earth but one family. how can you worship a baby-killer? yahweh is disgusting. the bible is a bad fairy tale.

      February 9, 2013 at 3:49 am |
  10. syntax

    This article shows how Americans really don't know themselves. Their biggest sins are: A) ignorance of what happens in the world other than the block they live in. B) Exceptionalism: they are better and wiser than anybody and this has to be accepted as an axiom. C) their inveterate habit of kissing the mirror.

    February 9, 2013 at 1:58 am |
    • Duck-Billed Plat!tude

      Apparently the biggest sin where you come from is to stereotype all Americans based on a silly interpretation of an insipid article.

      February 9, 2013 at 2:07 am |
    • syntax

      Duck-Billed, I'll give you two examples of what I mean: A) George W. Bush: "Are there blacks in Brazil?", B) We Americans have enough atomic weapons to obliterate half the Universe but the Iranians cannot have one single one to defend themselves and avoid Iraq's fate. Why? Because "We Americans are the good guys, Iranians the bad ones".

      February 9, 2013 at 3:52 am |
    • Duck-Billed Plat!tude

      Your model for American intelligence levels was George W. Bush?

      Oh dear.

      February 9, 2013 at 4:09 pm |
    • Vaporware Jesus

      Bush's 2nd coming was no model for American intelligence. He was a hillbilly with connections, nothing more.

      February 9, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • syntax

      Duck-Billed, you and I agree that GWB was not very intelligent. However, he was elected president. Twice. The gist of the matter is: No matter how stupid the elected president might be, he cannot be more stupid than the people who elected him. This has nothing to do with stereotyping. Bringin up American double standards concerning issues such as possession of atomic weapons are not stereotyping either.

      February 10, 2013 at 1:14 am |
  11. Bootyfunk

    according to the church, education and cognitive thinking is the deadliest sin of all.

    February 9, 2013 at 1:34 am |
  12. Chris Patrick

    Hi! It wasn't an apple – it was a pomegranate.

    February 9, 2013 at 12:25 am |
    • Andy

      I contentiously disagree. It was grenadine.

      February 9, 2013 at 12:26 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      I'm with Andy, but how many did you have?

      February 9, 2013 at 12:29 am |
    • Latrine


      February 9, 2013 at 2:14 am |
  13. Andy

    I could gather from this that Jesus encouraged all Christians to attack and condemn all the people with fault. But then that would include all Christians. What am I supposed to think? Are there people here who are better than the sinners?

    February 9, 2013 at 12:22 am |
    • Andy

      Slow day at CNN.

      February 9, 2013 at 12:25 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      Depends on who you mean and why?

      February 9, 2013 at 12:26 am |
  14. Just call me Lucifer

    My three favorites.... Creationism, Religion and Monotheism.

    February 8, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
  15. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    Let us start from the beginning:

    From a Catholic Professor of Theology–

    "Baptism does not erase original sin since the sin does not exist. The old "laundry of the soul," approach to Baptism is no longer accepted."

    Regarding the "sins" of gluttony/overeating and laziness in the 21st century: Acts of simple stupidity with the penance of heart trouble, stroke, and/or lack of education and poor job skills resulting in unemployment. And Hell and Purgatory are not in the picture since neither exist.

    February 8, 2013 at 11:35 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      lol, soul laundry

      February 8, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
    • gg

      wow! a catholic that doesn't believe in hell or purgatory. It sounds like you studied actual facts unlike your church teaches. But you forgot to include one other thing that doesn't exist in the Bible, the trinity doctrine. God is one almighty God, Jesus is His son, and the holy spirit is God's active force. And lastly the catholic church is not the truth. Actually the church distorts the truth. Finally got out of that greedy old harlot (Revelation chapters 17 and 18) many years ago.

      February 9, 2013 at 3:38 am |
    • Reality

      The Apostles'/Agnostics’ Creed 2013: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      (references used are available upon request)

      February 9, 2013 at 7:24 am |
  16. Vaporware Jesus

    Stop sinnin' ya'll, I'ma coming back and packing heat!

    February 8, 2013 at 10:12 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      Americans' top 3 sins:
      1) Pride
      2) Unbelief
      3) Pride & unbelief

      February 8, 2013 at 11:18 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      There's no such thing as sin.

      February 8, 2013 at 11:23 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      If you are a member of the christian jesus death cult, sin is real.

      February 8, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Notice all your "sins" are thought crimes. Thoughts are not crimes.

      February 8, 2013 at 11:32 pm |
    • Lenn

      4) Useless repeti.tion. 🙂

      If you're a typical Conservative Christian, and you feel that everything YOU believe simply HAS to be the truth, then you might want to check your own pride, know what I mean?

      February 8, 2013 at 11:59 pm |
  17. aseoruiw

    These sins are in top 3 may be all around the world, americans aren't alone with it

    February 8, 2013 at 10:03 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      You sure got that right!

      February 8, 2013 at 11:26 pm |
    • Lenn

      Yeah, those Somalians and Ethiopians are known for their overeating and all the time they spend tweeting about what those warlords are up to. I guess you can call their unlikely survival a case of procrastinating their death? Selfish slackers!

      February 9, 2013 at 12:09 am |
  18. Mohammad A Dar

    Sins are products of weak minds, just like people see ghosts, and believe in Hell.

    February 8, 2013 at 9:35 pm |

    • Fully evolved beings such as ourselves set the rules.

      February 8, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
    • keylock

      Just make sure you know how to handle yourself, just incase the occasion arises! When life hands you lemons! 😉

      February 9, 2013 at 12:10 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Make lemonade!

      February 9, 2013 at 12:17 am |
    • gg

      the concept of sin is for people that have moral values, and people who try to live life by standards that bring benefits to life.
      Evolution is hogwash, the evidence for creation is overwhelming. I've studied the "evidence" for evolution for 35 years, and find nothing conclusive at all. It's so full of missing links it can't tow a tricycle. Fabrication after fabrication, it takes more faith to believe in the theory of evolution than in the obvious evidence of a creator.

      February 9, 2013 at 3:45 am |
    • Psuedonym

      I've seen "ghosts" or atleast what appeared to be ghosts, more than once..and listening to some random stranger on cnn have a negative opinion about my mind isn't changing my experience.

      February 9, 2013 at 3:50 am |
    • I wonder


      It's highly improbable that you have "studied" evolution for 35 years. Perhaps you first heard about it 35 years ago and have read this 'n that since then, but "studied", no.

      February 9, 2013 at 3:52 am |
  19. Michele

    Ever run to the local chain grocery store or Walmart on a Friday night? No brainer that overeating is in the top three. Perhaps wearing spandex for many should be as well.

    February 8, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • Damocles

      Spandex usage should definitely be heavily regulated.

      February 8, 2013 at 9:28 pm |
    • CrossCountry

      WHITE spandex should be a sin. In fact, I am declaring right now....tis a sin to wear white spandex.

      February 8, 2013 at 9:49 pm |
    • Lenn

      Yes, and not just after Labor Day.

      February 9, 2013 at 12:29 am |
  20. Damocles


    Fine, help me find the way by finding that busy intersection and letting your deity do its thing. Scoot, go now, video evidence is always appreciated.

    February 8, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
    • veritas

      This gibberish made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

      February 8, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • bobk52

      I get the last word, & to quote the raven ( nevermore) Will I read this cluskerfvck again!

      February 8, 2013 at 11:38 pm |
    • Damocles

      Yes, I posted in the wrong spot so, no, it doesn't make sense as a stand alone post.

      February 9, 2013 at 12:09 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.